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Prosecutors Change Their Tune on Deterrence Involving Corporate Wrongdoing

FBI Director James Comey

By DEVLIN BARRETT and KIRSTEN GRIND 
Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—In extracting multibillion-dollar fines from Citigroup Inc. and other big banks, prosecutors say they are trying to deter future corporate wrongdoing by making shareholders angry enough to demand changes.

It is a significant shift in tone for the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation, which have argued for years that sending people to prison is the best way to prevent white-collar crime.

In the past month, top officials including FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Eric Holder said future corporate misdeeds can be avoided by imposing large or record-breaking penalties on companies. On Wednesday, Associate Attorney General Tony West said one factor the Justice Department considers in imposing stiff penalties is whether the fine “could be regarded by shareholders and management as merely the cost of doing business.”

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